Spain sunk by dogged England

Frank Lampard's 49th-minute header earned England a dogged 1-0 victory over world champions Spain at Wembley on Saturday evening.

Last Updated: 12/11/11 at 19:27 Post Comment

Lampard: Celebrates his goal with Jagielka

Lampard: Celebrates his goal with Jagielka

Stand-in skipper Lampard stooped to nod home a loose ball three minutes after half-time when Darren Bent's header struck the inside of a post.

Led superbly by man-of-the-match Scott Parker, England then remained defiant in the face of concerted Spanish pressure to secure only Fabio Capello's second victory against top-rated opposition in his four years in charge.

It was also the Three Lions' first outright victory over Spain at Wembley since 1968.

And, whilst no-one - least of all Capello - will take anything for granted ahead of Euro 2012, given so many fringe players were involved, the momentum generated augurs well for a far more effective performance than their tepid effort in South Africa.

There was something distinctly unfulfilling about the opening half an hour.

A Spain side containing five members of the Barcelona team that mesmerised Manchester United on the same pitch last May did exactly the same again, only without the cutting edge provided by Lionel Messi.

The tiki-taka Spanish style left England without the ball for long periods. Bent in particular had a thankless task attempting to plug the holes Spain are so good at finding.

Entrusted with a midfield slot, Phil Jones had energy to burn, but as he implored his team-mates to follow his lead, the Manchester United man was belying his naivety.

Parker had the right idea. One of the few not scarred by past experiences against Xavi and Andres Iniesta, he refused to be drawn out of position and stepped forward to make a tackle only when Spain threatened, which as it turned out, was not very often.

Indeed, it was England who had the first effort on goal. A Lampard pot-shot from 25 yards which Iker Casillas dealt with comfortably enough.

Having assumed the captain's armband from John Terry, Lampard made a decent fist of galvanising his troops and it was all rather routine until Spain suddenly clicked into life.

It was not that they began peppering Joe Hart's goal. Aside from Hart's Manchester City team-mate David Silva squeezing out a shot from an acute angle, Hart had as little to do as Bent.

But Iniesta did play a one-two with Silva to almost get himself through and Sergio Busquets lifted Xabi Alonso's chip into the box over from 10 yards.

Wearing a corsage on his lapel in addition to a poppy, a reminder he was missing son Pierfilippo's wedding in Milan, Capello must have been fairly satisfied at the break, especially as John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere will hopefully be able to strengthen this starting line-up in Poland and Ukraine next summer.

And within three minutes of the break, England had gone in front with a goal right out of the Home Nations coaching manual after Alvaro Arbeloa had presented the hosts with a free-kick close to the touchline.

James Milner floated it into the box, where Bent climbed highest turning a header against the post with substitute Jose Reina absolutely static.

The Liverpool goalkeeper was still rooted to the spot when it bounced back across the line and Lampard was fastest to react, stooping to nod into an empty net.

It was his 23rd England goal, putting him level with Nat Lofthouse on the all-time list.

For a second, it appeared neither the players nor the crowd had considered the possibility of England being ahead.

And it took Spain a little while to react, which they did with a mixture of robust tackling, complaints to the referee and more purpose to their play.

Villa should have done better than blaze a shot into the side-netting after being brilliantly picked out by Busquets, while the Barcelona forward later fired a brilliant shot against a post after Glen Johnson had been caught in possession.

Amidst all this, Capello had given Jack Rodwell his debut and he exchanged passes with another substitute, Danny Welbeck to put Spain in trouble, the whole episode almost ending disastrously for the visitors as Reina had to turn away Alba's misdirected backpass.

As Spain began to turn the screw, so Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott rose to the challenge, each producing their best England performances in a disciplined defensive effort.

It was Parker who slid in to deny Gerard Pique though as he galloped forward, just about to connect with Fabregas' cut-back.

The former Arsenal man spurned two chances in a minute before the end. First Hart saved a deflected effort from the edge of the area, before Fabregas pushed the ball wide from 10 yards after finding himself clean through as England scored a welcome triumph.

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